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Briefing: Human rights impacts of oil pollution - US Gulf Coast (2010)

Briefing: Human rights impacts of oil pollution - US Gulf Coast (2010)

Note: This page was last updated in 2010. For more up-to-date information, click here.

On 20 April 2010, an explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig while it was drilling at the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 crewmen.  The rig burned, then sank two days later, leaving the well gushing oil from the sea floor.  The resulting spill became the world’s largest accidental oil spill ever.  On 15 July 2010, BP announced that it had stopped the oil leaking from the well.  On 19 September 2010, the US Government announced that the well had been permanently killed.

Companies referred to in this briefing: BP, Anadarko Petroleum, Cameron International, Halliburton, MOEX Offshore (part of Mitsui Oil Exploration), Nalco and Transocean.  We have invited each of these companies to provide responses or any further information it wishes to be added to this briefing.

For information on relevant international human rights standards referred to in this section, click here.

Latest additions:
- "BP Trial Will Be in January", Louisiana AG Caldwell Says, Allen Johnson Jr., Margaret Cronin, Bloomberg, 3 May 2012
- "BP Reaches Estimated $7.8 Billion Deal With Spill Victims", Jef Feeley, Bloomberg, 5 Mar 2012
- "Gulf Coast Claims Facility resumes payments after judge amends order requiring it to set aside percentage of all settlements to pay for work of plaintiffs' lawyers in oil spill litigation", Rebecca Mowbray, David Hammer, Times-Picayune [USA], 4 Jan 2012
- "Cameron Intl. loses appeal against trial plan in case set to determine which companies are to blame for Deepwater Horizon oil spill", Margaret Cronin Fisk, Bloomberg, 27 Dec 2011
- "BP sues Halliburton for clean up costs following Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Halliburton claims indemnity under agreement with BP", Dominic Rushe, Guardian [UK], 3 Jan 2012


  1. Deaths of and injuries to oil rig workers in the explosionAP Photo/Patrick Semansky

  2. Loss of livelihoods and threat to adequate standard of living for fishing communities and others on the Gulf Coast
    - Introduction
    - Native American fishing communities
    - African American fishing communities
    - Croatian American fishing communities
    - Vietnamese American and other Southeast Asian American fishing communities
    - Small onshore seafood businesses
    - Small tourism businesses
    - Broader livelihood impacts beyond seafood & tourism
    - Livelihood impacts – long-term

  3. BP claims process & compensation fund
    - Introduction
    - BP claims process
    - Access to justice – barriers to BP claims process
    - Gulf Coast Claims Facility

  4. Physical health
    - Introduction
    - Cleanup workers
    - Broader health impacts on residents
    - Issues specific to dispersants
    - Environmental justice
    - Health impacts through food chain

  5. Mental health

  6. Cultural rights
    - Introduction
    - Native Americans
    - African Americans
    - Cajuns
    - Croatian Americans
    - Vietnamese Americans

  7. Companies involved – their actions & roles
    - Introduction
    - Company actions & roles – general
    - “Blowout preventer” (Cameron)
    - “Cementing” process (Halliburton)
    - Rig – general (BP, Transocean, Anadarko, Mitsui)
    - Rig warning system
    - Well design (BP)
    - Cleanup actions by companies

  8. Access to information

  9. Statements & commentaries on Gulf oil spill impacts using human rights framework

  10. Lawsuits, regulatory & legislative action
    - Introduction
    - Deaths/injuries from explosion
    - Livelihoods
    - Health of cleanup workers
    - Health of residents
    - Lawsuits between companies
    - Consolidated proceeding
    - Regulatory & legislative action

  11. Proposals to prevent & address future deepwater drilling accidents

  12. Videos

  13. Further information

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s role is to impartially provide information reflecting the full public debate on issues relating to business & human rights.  The diverse views presented in these materials have been published by commentators, journalists, organizations and companies.  Any company or organization wishing to submit a clarification, response or further information is welcome to do so.  For the US Gulf Coast, please contact:
Greg Regaignon, Research Director, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre - email, phone: 1 212 564 9160

This briefing is not comprehensive.  It highlights key materials reflecting a broad range of views, thereby facilitating constructive, informed decision-making and public discussion.  The briefing’s purpose is to keep an ongoing focus on these important issues, and to provide a platform to reflect the continuing public debate.  We will keep this briefing updated over the coming months and years.

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Related stories and components

3 May 2012

BP Trial Will Be in January, Louisiana AG Caldwell Says [USA]

Author: Allen Johnson Jr., Margaret Cronin, Bloomberg

The first trial over the BP...oil spill will be scheduled for Jan. 14, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said. The initial trial date, set for March this year, was postponed when BP and lawyers for private parties reached a $7.8 billion partial...

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5 March 2012

BP Reaches Estimated $7.8 Billion Deal With Spill Victims

Author: Jef Feeley, Bloomberg

BP...may face as much as $17.6 billion in civil pollution fines and possibly billions of dollars more in criminal penalties as its settlement with businesses and individuals harmed by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill shifts the focus to government...

Read more